Prince Bahati is the founder and program director of an Adventist radio station in Rwanda, which works to bring a message of hope and reconciliation to Rwandans - countering the messages of hate that were broadcast in the past.
Spectrum asked Prince Bahati about the radio station - its reach, its content and its goals.
Question: You started a radio station in Rwanda. Why did you start the station? When did it first go live on the airwaves? Can you tell us about the station?
Answer: We started the station in response to the need in Rwanda.
During the 1994 genocide, radio was used to spread the ideology of genocide. Its accessibility to ordinary citizens made it an instrument of hate speech. Radio Rwanda and RTLM played a key role in the genocide. They destroyed the country instead of building it.
The post-genocide period was characterized by fear and discouragement. Rwandans were hopeless and helpless. The church decided it would be wise to have a channel of hope - and that was where the idea of the Adventist radio in Kigali [Rwanda's capital] originated. We went on air for the first time on March 10, 2005.
We are now on air for 19 hours every day, and 24 hours on the weekend. The station reaches three-quarters of the country. We have a variety of programs but in a magazine format. Some of the show topics include: sermons, health education, children and population issues, to name but a few.
Question: How is the station funded? Do you have advertising? Do you have a paid staff and presenters?
Answer: The budget for the radio comes from the Seventh-day Adventist church in Rwanda.
The budget is not enough, though. We would like to develop the station and have it on the internet. Reporters do not have transport to cover stories in rural areas, and the church is not able to buy a car for the staff.
Lay people have contributed a lot to the work through organized fundraising. Interestingly, we also get contributions from Christians of other denominations.
To start the station, Adventist World Radio donated equipment to us. But equipment alone cannot make a radio station.
We are trying to do social advertising. Last year the Ministry of Health gave our healthful living program an award, naming it the second-best such program in the country.
We have a paid staff of four people and a team of 40 voluntary presenters. Question: What is the most popular show on your radio station?
Answer: The most popular show is called “Duhumurizanye.” That means “Comforting.” It is a show focused on reconciliation.
The show runs for two hours every Tuesday morning.
Some people are always late to work on Tuesdays. They don’t want to miss the end of the show.
In Rwanda we have genocide survivors living with those who killed their relatives. We invite courageous and spiritual people who have been able to forgive their enemies from the bottom of their hearts to come into the studio. They give testimonies about how they managed to act so courageously.
We dedicate one hour to testimony and one hour to calls. During the calls, people can call in to plead guilty and others can forgive. We have more than 50 callers every hour. My co-host Ruth lost both of her parents during the genocide. It is encouraging to have her in the studio dealing with healing.
The first two weeks of every April – the anniversary of the genocide - are dedicated to genocide remembrance. During that time our show becomes a family of comforters. We organize listeners who donate money, clothes and food. Together we visit genocide widows and orphans. People come regardless of what church they belong to. It is fabulous.
Question: What do you like about working on radio and hosting radio shows?
Answer: Naturally, I like talking to people, especially when I have something to share with them. I find God in their voices. They teach me patience.
Question: What experience do you have in radio and in journalism? Where did you study?
Answer: I studied journalism and communication at the National University of Rwanda.
The experience I have is that I started a radio station alone, and it worked.
I remember my colleagues asking me whether I was serious about wanting to start a station and my answer was that God was on my side.
I am now the vice president of the High Council of Media in Rwanda. The position has offered me the opportunity to visit many countries including the US, Egypt, Sweden and Benin.
Question: As you mentioned, radio was used to incite violence during the 1994 genocide. Could radio still be used in a negative way?
Answer: Radio is the queen of the media - not only in Rwanda but in the whole of Africa. It has broken the barriers of illiteracy and is cheap and affordable.
Yes, radio can still be used in a negative way because the devil is not yet dead. He is alive and he knows the power of the radio. Christians should work hard to use radio in saving perishing souls.
In the High Council of the Media we are trying our best to prevent hate speech in the media.
Question: Where were you during the 1994 genocide?
Answer: I was in the DRC. That is where I was born.
Question: Do you believe the Rwandan government is doing enough to aid reconciliation efforts? Is the country finding healing?
Answer: Yes, this government is even doing what churches should do. When I see the way it integrates those people who were in the government that committed genocide, I am amazed. The country - and especially young people - are finding healing but of course it will take a long time.
Question: What goals do you have for the radio station?
Answer: We want to cover the whole country and neighboring countries, such as the DRC, Uganda, Tanzania, and Burundi.
Within three years we want our radio station to be connected to the internet. Of course we do not have the money yet, but we know the One we serve will do it.
In five years, it will be the most popular Christian radio in the Great Lakes Region.
Prince Bahati is 31, and has been running SDA Radio on FM 106.4, for four years.
Read more about the radio station in an article by the Adventist News Network at http://news.adventist.org.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/1431